Monday, February 27, 2006


Hills and valleys roll in and out of each other like paint on canvass; paint on canvass seems to be everyone’s profession. The view is very misty to the naked eye; the vision, very mystical to the naked soul. Organic food stores proclaiming the perfection of body neighbor organic Kabbala schools proclaiming the perfection of soul. Streets, more cobble than stone, go in no obvious direction – as do some of its inhabitants. The structures seem to crumble as you look at them (this place was never one for structure) and the energy just bounces off the rubble (rubble always got along well with energy). It is a place more prone to Spirit than Matter – for some the right Spirit is what matters and for other the Matter is the right spirit. Doors painted blue appear to blend in with the rapidly approaching skies; rapidly approaching skies never seem to reach their destined destination. The mood is very airy; the blinding clarity, eerier yet. It is built on many graves, but it is more alive than glowing flesh. Yes, here even the cemetery dances in life’s delight: I guess when one is confined neither to the spirits of spirituality nor to the physics of physicality one dances on as if generations hadn’t passed. People are trying to carve out their unique niche: some succeed, while others just bore holes. It is glaringly funny, really, how earth plays heaven’s mirror: there is much spirit floating in the air here and, as a reflection, there is much craziness going on: this woman tries to out-costume the other woman; this guy’s prayer shawl attempts to out-color the other guy’s prayer shawl – until all this focus on things earthly distorts the view of things heavenly. If you are not a painter, you are a musician. If you are not a musician, you are a rabbi. If you are not a rabbi, you are a student. If you are not a student, you are a tourist. That’s it.

It is a place of Self-Expression – the question is: what is your agenda, the Self or the Expression.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bullshitsky Boulevard

Take a walk down Bullshitsky Boulevard
Where you can buy a pack of lies.
Take a walk down Bullshitsky Boulevard
Where even masks are disguised.
Take a walk down Bullshitsky Boulevard
Where you don’t need no alibis.

Hustlers hustling by your purse;
Grafters grafting in your mind;
Liars swearing at a curse;
Stoners tripping up the blind.

There’s a beard covering a sinner.
There’s a tear hiding a whore.
There’s a loser say’s he’s a winner.
There’s a bourgeois who says he’s poor.

A good cop will pick your pocket.
A fireman will light a match.
A scientist will blow his rocket.
A pirate will sell his patch.

With your eyes you see skin deep.
With your ears you hear the noise.
You can buy talk that is cheap.
You can sell your latest ploys.

Ignorant teachers run the schools.
Illiterate authors write the books.
The wizened ones here are fools.
And the queens are switched for rooks.

A supreme judge bribes a thief.
A gory guru washes your brain.
A sane saint laughs in disbelief.
A stormy cloud shrinks in the rain

Near the lamppost there’s laughter at bad humor.
Leaning on the fire hydrant is a false mustache.
Growing near the tree is a malignant tumor.
Scratching on the sidewalk is a rust rash.

You can give this piece of bee ess a rave review
‘Cause you are walking down Bullshitsky Avenue

(This is a song I'm working on; please let me know what you think.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Treetise

Just A Piece Of Poetree

He stands there, branches spread and spreading some more. Fruits, dangling from his very limbs, sway in a ripened rhythm. Skin, now weathered and lined, is still more bark than bite; while arms and legs, though creaky and shaky, have not yet woodened. As a new leaf is about to be turned, he goes back, gazing into roots now sprouted.

It was a time before sprouting, when he was no more than a seed, a thought really: a conceptual idea – maybe coming to fruition, maybe not – that can be everything or nothing. And like most good ideas, he was forgotten in a miasma of uncultivated genius – tossed into the dirt, buried and left to rot.

What happened next is very unclear, a green haze. All he really remembers is that he felt at ease, surrounded by a bunch of tall and strong saviors, protecting the delicate good idea from the harshness of reality. A seed, a young brain, is like wet cement: whatever is etched in it is etched forever – a scarred seed becomes a scarred tree, a healthy seed becomes a healthy tree – and now, as he looks back at this vulnerable time of his, he realizes how close he came to being just another seedy idea.

With much patience and care, he was nourished back to health – cultivated, watered, and sunned. And he remembers the pain, a good pain – the pain of growth. But how it hurt then: the discipline, the breaking of self, the rotting of things past, the leaving of comfort zones, the disintegration of shell until virtually nothing – and then the sprouting; o, what pain it is to sprout.

Ah, but then the pleasure: the pleasure of independence – sure he still needed guidance lest he take a crooked path, but he was an entity all his own now; the pleasure of discovery, learning things he couldn’t even imagine; the pleasure of possibility, dreaming of things he will do; the pleasure of creativity, creating things all his own; the pleasure of giving, knowing he can give back to the world all that (and more) of what it has given him; and of course the pleasure of self, just knowing that he is here, an indispensable detail (and world) in the mass scheme of things.

And his limbs grow thicker, and they grow limbs of their own. Seasons are changing his body, changes are seasoning his soul, and he grows past adolescence into adulthood. He had some rebellion in him – he let his hair dreadlock, even pierced a twig and dabbled in some herb – but that is gone now; he has become a responsible individual.

And he looks back at the wonder of his first fruit, these little things that are so fragrant and sweet. What he enjoys most is the pleasure they give others; just knowing that something he created can have such an impact.

And now his own fruit themselves start to seed, going through the same trials and tribulations he went through. He watches as they try to find their own roots, their own unique ground, and it reminds him of his own early days.

His fruit are now giving off fruit of their own, and he looks-on with a content smile on his lips as all that potential comes to fruition.

It is the beginning of another year; a new energy exposed to earth. It passes through root, trunk, branch, twig, and fruit, energizing a world much in need of inspiration. All we have to do is plant (“He who plants with tears will reap with joy”) those seeds, water (“The water of life” – Torah) those roots (“He shall cause Jacob to take root”), cultivate those trees (“For a man is a tree of the field”), and give off those fruit (“Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit”).

May all this work, sowing and planting, finally give off the ultimate fruit (of our labor) – truly arriving in the “Good Land” a “Land of wheat, and barley, and grape vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil, and honey” – both physically and spiritually.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

To Forge Ahead

Horses, their masked riders in black urging them on, trample over a crowd of young men and women; clubs and batons, in a furious rhythm, go crack against skulls and their caps; girls’ ponytails are used as handholds to drag them away; demonstrators, tens of thousands perhaps, fill the streets; parliament members, blood streaking down their noses and cheeks, cannot act diplomatically; homes, once a place of joy and comfort, now being torn away; families, who were changing their little part of the universe, are now homeless. Welcome, my friends – welcome to the Promised Land.

The Escapist:

The world is a horrid place: everything here dies. We hate each other, like only two brothers can. It is cold and dark, and I am numb from the false pretense of existence. I feel them closing in on me and I make a decision – I will jump, commit physical suicide, escape from the prison of Body and dedicate myself solely to my soul. I will hide behind my books, crawl under my prayer shawl, and wrap myself in pure ecstasy. What of everybody else, will I just let them freeze to death? It’s not my problem; let someone else care for them. I do what I have to do: this is a dog-eat-dog world and I am not going to starve, or be someone’s puppy. Survival of the fittest, and I think I’m fit to survive.

The Slave:
I feel the confines slipping over me like a vaporous cloud. I cannot stop it. I haven’t the power to fight. What can a little nothing like me do? Nothing. So I sit resigned to fate. Sure I’ll do what is asked of me, maybe even help my fellow if in need, but I do it because I’m bound to it; not because I want to. I worship Environment: cold normalcy is my eye, and status quo my vision. Why don’t I become alive, step out of this robotics of mine? Simply: because it is too damn hard. So, instead I lie here, letting the chains tighten around my wrists and ankles – and am thankful that at least the chains are predictable.

The Zealot:
The enemy is coming closer; we are trapped and must strike out: attack them with brute force. Life is war, and the only way one wins a war is by fighting a war. Peace? Ha, now that’s a laugh. See where peace has gotten us so far – to the grave, to the grave it has gotten us. No, we will take up arms, brothers in arms, and battle it out. What if the arms you take up are against your brothers – is that still “brothers in arms”? I don’t care: they want war, and they will get war. We will not go like sheep to the slaughter. Oh no, we have done that before and look where it got us. We will fight. But why waste your energy on fighting a war when you were told to use all your energy to receive the Torah, to forge ahead? Why fight, which has many non-casual casualties, when you can continue on? Why fight when you were never told to fight? I fight because I have to fight. That’s why I fight. What if I told you there was another way, would you still fight? There is no other way. There is only one solution – war, and only war, will save us now.

The Dependant:
What can we do? We must pray. I feel the dark cloud surrounding even our possibilities, even our hopes, even our beliefs, we must pray. When there is nothing else, there is always prayer. I will put my life in His hands; let him guide me. What do I know? I know only one thing: You and only You can save me now. So, here take my prayer and do as you see fit. What about you, don’t you think you can change your fate? Who? Me? Who am I? I am nothing. Only He, He who created me, can change my fate. I am fated to fate. I don’t want to jump in the Torah Sea and hide behind my fur coat; I don’t want to return and enslave myself to normalcy; I don’t even want to go to war; I just don’t want to make the decision: I’ll pray and He’ll decide. What about the power vested in you to change the universe? What power? What you? What change? What universe? He is all and all is He – I am nothing, nothing but a prayer.

The Forger:
Then there is I, The Forger – he who forges ahead. I don’t care what anybody says – water, no water; Egyptians, no Egyptians – G-d told us we are going to the Mountain, so we are going to the Mountain. There is water in front of us? So what? G-d also created water: water is also G-dly. I’ll just wave my hand over the water and show you how the water is but an extension of G-d. You don’t believe me? Poof, it splits. What was once hidden is now revealed: the sea split to show you how underneath it all, it too, the final boundary between exile and redemption, is but a tool of G-d’s and, therefore, a tool of ours. But it is so hard, finding the truth in everything and revealing it. Yes, but if you were to find the truth in yourself, split your sea so that your essence is uncovered, would it then be so hard to find the essence in everything else? I don’t think so.

(We live in weird – or normal – times, where all of our dreams seem to be trampled on by horses, and none of us can agree on what to do: some say we should escape; some say we should succumb to slavery; some say we should go to war; and some say we should pray and depend solely on G-d. What do we do? Do we rely on our own intuition, on our own feelings? Then certainly we would never agree. We seem to have no leader, no Moses to tell us what to do. But, as Yud Shvat dawns, the day the Moses of our generation accepted the leadership, I realize that the answer to our question must lie in the teachings of the Rebbe. And so it does: no one should be an escapist, nor a slave, nor a zealot, nor a dependant – one must forge ahead, ahead to the receiving of the Torah, by spreading that which the Torah stands for and, therefore, spreading, in fact “splitting”, all that which seemingly stands in our way.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Street Talk

I stand on Zalamn Shazar’s glasses, waiting for the light to change. After the fundamental transition from red to green, I walk down the stories of Ben Tzvi, and make a left up the toga of Agrippas. Now passing through the tents of Machana Yehudah – where, like in days past, you can sell or buy anything, from your soul to apples – I emerge at the shores of Yafo, the foamy waves of twisting busses lapping at my shoes. At the intersecting canonic Kikar Davidka, I dream my way into the prophetic Haneveim. Up the “Titanic” Strauss we go, until we hit the rule of Malchei Yisrael. Now, after riding on Yechezkial’s chariot and Shmuel Hanavi’s leadership, we tread with tribulation on the tribal Shivtai Yisrael. The hundred gates of Meah Sheorim, only accessible to those dressed modestly, bring us to the “universal” Bar Ilan. Yirmiyahu’s true vision guides us through Hertzl’s distorted one. The presidential Weizmann leads us under the bridge, and up Betzalel’s architecture. A right on Usishkin’s right wing philosophy, heading toward the Ramban’s Torah commentary; when we reach the end of Nachmonides, a left on King George’s crown. Now we word our way through Ben Yehudah’s dictionary, balancing between Hillel’s “actuality” and Shamai’s “possibility”. Now through the black and white editorials of Agron’s “Post”, and down the political Keren Ha’Yesod. Past Washington’s apple trees, Mendele Mocher Seforim’s books, Lincoln’s lack of mustache, Sholom Aleichem’s Yiddish, and Jabotinsky’s revisionism. We recite the iambs of Shmuel Hanagid’s poetry, comment on Abarbanel’s prayer commentary and Ibn Ezra’s Pentateuch commentary, while engaging the disengaged Derech Azza. Achad Ha’am seems to be split, as does Ha’Palmach. Ben Maimon’s thirteen principles seem to be deserted, and they think Alfasi is a wine. Now back around and King David seems to be beckoning us. His grandson is around here somewhere, just waiting for all the streets to come together, to unite as one.

And I can see the Old City in the distance, its magnet drawing me in. Down the stairs we go and our foreheads rest on the Wall. Road-weary and tired, I realize all this roaming through wild streets and deserted deserts was worth it: our homelessness is just the journey, and our Home, the destination, is not so far away.